We were all relieved to know when Brenda heard from Roger, reporting that his maiden voyage in Mingming ll was nearly complete and he arrived in his Scottish home port of Whitehills on Thursday 28th August after 55 days at sea and covering 3332 nautical miles. Mingming ll, who is now tucked up in Rice and Cole's yard, had fulfilled all his expectations. This is his report.
I left Whitehills on the Moray Firth on the morning of 4th July, heading first for Björnøya - Bear Island. Bear Island lies about halfway between the North Cape of Norway and Spitsbergen, and is the most southerly of the Svalbard group of islands. I ducked through the Fair Isle passage to be better placed for a short blow from the south-east, and sailed up the west side of the Shetlands, past my old friend, the island of Foula.
Seventeen and a half days straightforward sailing brought us to Björnøya. We arrived off the southern end of the island late in the afternoon of the 21st July, but it was wrapped in a blanket of fog and cloud. I hove-to 8 miles off the southern cape, but when I looked out at 0230, the island was crystal clear under the early morning sunshine. We sailed in close, then up the east coast, admiring the cliffs and mountains of the south-east side.
We then carried on to the north-east, in deteriorating conditions. Next target was the island of Hopen, and I was forced to heave-to for a while in a strong south-westerly with thick fog and torrential rain. We were now well into the Barents Sea, and over the very shallow waters of the Spitsbergen Banks. Just as we arrived at Hopen the weather cleared and we entered the Arctic High. The south cape of Hopen is a massive buttress of rock. The island is long and very narrow - only a mile and a half wide at its widest point - but has several peaks of over 1000 feet. Once again we sailed up the east coast, filming and photographing as we went.
Just a few miles past Hopen a small herd of inquisitive walruses surrounded us. I had not expected to see them so far south.
Next target was Kong Karls Land, a group of islands 120 miles to the north east. There I came across three massive humpback whales who accompanied Mingming ll for a short while, two of them just a few feet off the starboard quarter. There were also small herds of harp seals keeping us company a lot of the time. I sailed in close to the east end of the main island, Kongsøya – King's Island, to photograph the cliffs and glaciers, then carried on to the most northerly, and lowest island - Abeløya, at the north-east end of the group.
Just after midday on July 30th, off the east side of Abeløya, we reached 79°North. For the previous 24 hours we had been meeting drift ice, and I decided that this was the moment to turn south again.
I then headed south-west, towards the island of Edgeøya. Edgeøya has an ice-cap of well over 1000 square miles, which produces the huge Stone Glacier. I sailed the whole length of the ice cliffs of the Stone Glacier - thirty-five miles long, just a couple of miles offshore. After the intrusion of a small mountain there is a second smaller glacier - Kong Johanns Breen - and next day I was able to get good photos in brilliant sunshine.
From Edgeøya I sailed south-west, past Hopen and Björnøya, out of the Barents Sea and across the Greenland Sea for a third visit to Jan Mayen. The extra mileage was well rewarded. For the first time I sailed down the west side of the island, and was able to sail in really close to the Weyprecht Glacier that descends from Mount Beerenberg, the island's 7000 foot volcano. Then, for the first time in all my visits there, the cloud cleared and the great mountain was almost completely revealed in all its icy glory. It was a spectacular sight from just a mile offshore, rising straight out of the sea from a depth of 4500 feet.
We then turned south for home, and arrived at Muckle Flugga, the northerly point of the Shetlands, on the evening of August 24th. After calm weather off the Shetlands, followed by a strong blow from the south-east, we got into Whitehills at 1830 on the evening of August 28th.
The voyage was 55 days long, and noon-to-noon positions totalled 3332 nautical miles. Mingming ll was a delight to sail; quick, easily handled and relatively comfortable.